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Discussion Starter #1
I have found what looks to be a decent 1981 within 3 hours of me. I am hesitant because it is the last year of the series 2 and that it's performance might be quite hindered compared with earlier years or later years. In short, is 1981 the worst year to buy?

What should I look for as far as modifications that could have been made and how to tell? I'm new to Alfas after many years in old land cruisers (I just sold my 1962 Toyota Land Cruiser) so I am used to slow vehicles but going to a sports car, don't want to be disappointed.

One reference that I've been using is here.

Thanks,
Eric
 

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I wouldn't say it is the worst year to buy, perhaps not as desirable as other years because that last version of the SPICA system was least powerful as they modified it to pass stricter emissions requirements.

As with any old car and especially an Alfa, rust tends to be the biggest killer. Rust in the sills/floors is significant as that is where the Spider's unibody gets much of it structural strength.

Any evidence of overheating? That can be either the cause or the effect of a failed head gasket.

As for a SPICA car, they should start easily hot or cold and run well. If they don't be aware repairs to SPICA can be expensive - especially if it has been messed with by someone with no experience with the system.
 

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If it's solid and runs well, I wouldn't be frightened off by the monofarfal Spica system. It will still be fun to drive. You can always install carbs or an earlier Spica system down the road. I've got an '80 Spider engine in my GTV project car that I replaced the monofarfal with an earlier Spica intake manifold. At some point I'll replace the '80 Spica pump with a '74 pump to get more fuel. I should say that I haven't run the fuel lines to it so it isn't running yet but I don't forsee any big problems. If your state requires emissions testing on that year car that's a whole different can of worms.
 

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1981 desirability

Here are my thoughts on the 1981 model. I have one (red of course) and as a general statement think it is fair to say there are more similarities than differences to the earlier Series 2 versions. I also think they are fairly similar to the early Series 3 in general driveability, except the fuel management systems are more advanced in the Series 3.

Styling of the earlier Series 2 models is nicer in my opinion. The bumper styling design is better and the materals of construction hold up better over time.

For the sake of discussion, since these are all using the same basic 2L 4 cylinder engines with 5 speed transmissions, in my opinion the differences in power and drivability to other model years are negligible. We are not talking muscle cars with significant drivetrain and suspension options here. We are talking about a few horsepower, slight gearing changes, and suspension geometry tweaks over the years in question. You are still going to be rowing thru the gears while out and about (a good thing, to me), and at all legal speeds or slightly above, differences in rpm while cruising in 5th gear seem slight to me.

While out on drives with owners of earlier series 2 and mid-80's Series 3, I have not noticed any big differences in handling or acceleration.

One thing I have noticed on various threads is that the factory was big on using up all inventory prior to switching over to the Series 3, so there are some differences in 1981 models in such areas as consoles (mine is like the 1982, not like the 1980 and many 81's. Also, mine has factory AC, even though much of the literature says it wasn't introduced until 1982. These types of differences are merely one of preference, because there are parts available regardless. For example, my original seats needed reupholstering, and I changed them out for 1985 seats in better condition, they fit right in with no alterations necessary.

Things to look for regarding mods:

Possibly converted to dual carbs, usually Webers, from the SPICA fuel injection. Lots of threads here on the pros and cons. Mine was converted by 2nd owner, I am the 4th. I like the sound better, but get lower gas mileage, have had no issues in over 8 years, just leave them alone (I don't drive in winter, when fuel injection is a big plus).

May have been desmogged, air pump, etc. removed. Mine started out as a CA car, but was desmogged before I got it. A 1981 is over 25 years old, so I believe in most states emissions testing will not be an issue, others can comment? Ditto for the presence of the original catalytic converter setup.

Same rust issues as all others, need to check out the rocker areas in particular, jacking points, etc.

Bottom line, if it is in decent condition I think there is no reason not to consider a purchase.

These are the first things that come to mind, hopefully others will weigh in with their thoughts.


John
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks all.

The current owner says there is no "significant rust" by which he means panels and seams appear solid and there is nothing visible but he hasn't probed discolored rocker panels.

Says it shifts smoothly.

From what I can tell it will be fun to drive. It isn't red though... it is blue with a tan top and interior.

Thanks for settling my run away thoughts of future misery.
 

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Is the car for sale in Mass?

Thanks all.

The current owner says there is no "significant rust" by which he means panels and seams appear solid and there is nothing visible but he hasn't probed discolored rocker panels.

Says it shifts smoothly.

From what I can tell it will be fun to drive. It isn't red though... it is blue with a tan top and interior.

Thanks for settling my run away thoughts of future misery.
There was a silverish blue 1981 for sale on this site off and on for a while, located in Massachusetts. I wonder if that is the one you are considering?

Andrew
 

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If it is truely rust-free and runs well I think it is worth the $3500 asking price. Note the ad does not show any good views of the rockers, underside or engine compartment. Not saying they are hiding anything - just that it makes it hard to make a judgement based solely on the photos.
 

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I'd pass on an '81 - sorry. The performance disadvantage of the '81, as compared to a pre-'75 or to an '82 L-Jet Spider (same body as the '81), is quite significant. Plenty of Spider's for sale, and most of them are cheap. Never buy the first one you see. Whatever one you eventually buy, will end up costing you forever, so start with the one with the least deficits. Just my .02.
 

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And if the 81 has the least deficits, no rust, well sorted, go for it!
 

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1981 Spider

At least it is not Boring Black... Blue/tan sounds quite nice, actually.[/QUOTE

I have a 1981 blue/tan Spider and it has been de-smogged. It has plenty of power and handles brilliantly at highway speed as well at a good clip in the twisties running on cheap Bridgestone Invictas. The only other mod done on this car was a pre-1978 intake manifold with idle air adjustment and dual point changed to electronic ignition. I don't know where you live or where the car is from but mine is massively undercoated and was used by the 1st owner for 25 years as a Cape Cod summer car and the only rust is from scratches from R&R the hard hop.

*** is the 'DARK SIDE'
 

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Discussion Starter #19
After looking at and driving 4 different Spiders, we are purchaing the 1981 from AutoTrader! I pick it up this weekend. It had no apparent rust, started, drove, shifted flawlessly. We're very excited.

What I didn't see was an emblem on the front where there is so often a V or some type of Alfa badge. Was this missing or were they never on this series?
 

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I like the color. Very classy.

Funny, the auto-trader ad says it has a tilt wheel. Never seen one in a spider.
 
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